The impact of social security reforms on younger adults' housing choices in Edinburgh
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Within the context of austerity and welfare reform, this thesis examines the impact of Housing Benefit restrictions introduced post-2010 on younger adults aged 21-34 in Edinburgh. Two welfare reforms in particular have affected households with younger adults. The first of these is the increase in non-dependant deductions (NDDs) that reduce Housing Benefit entitlement for families with resident adult children. The second is the increase in age at which the Shared Accommodation Rate (SAR), which limits Housing Benefit entitlement to the prevailing rents in shared accommodation, applies. This research involved semi-structured interviews with 10 national (Scotland) policy experts and practitioners operating across Edinburgh. Biographical, semi-structured interviews were also concluded with twenty-three parents and younger adults aged 21-34-year olds to examine the impact of reforms on younger people as they attempt to make the transition to independent living. The research findings demonstrate that younger adults do not have full access to social security, and this discrimination within the welfare system is based purely on socioeconomic status as well as age, and fundamentally limit the housing choices and opportunities for people affected. Further, the age of those defined as belonging to the category ‘young person’ is increasing, and this cohort are deemed not have the same financial need or entitlement as older people, so reducing the opportunities and choices of younger people and those of their low-income families they continue to reside with. The thesis contributes to the literatures on welfare regimes and welfare reform. It demonstrates that there is an important age-element in welfare regimes that is not considered in existing literature other than in relation to pensions. It also demonstrates that widespread lack of understanding of the benefits system means that reforms are not mediated through ‘rational’ actors working with perfect information. Indeed, it is striking the extent to which many younger people have become disengaged from the social security system particularly in response to increased conditionality and sanctions. It is also striking that the younger adults interviewed did not consider the state to be an obvious enabler to independent living: social housing was seen as largely inaccessible whilst housing benefit did not enter their calculations. Instead younger people looked to the labour market as the route to independence, even though the often low paid and insecure nature of employment were insufficient to secure and maintain private tenancies. The operation of the benefits system including SAR point to age-based differences in the social security system. However, because SAR and NDDs affect only low-income households it is clear that there is also an important intra-generational cleavage between young people whose paths to independent living are hindered by the operation of the benefits system, and those who are not – and indeed whose path to independent living is actively promoted by the state through state supported entry into home-ownership through schemes such as Help to Buy.